My three favourite classroom IT applications from 2015

The best thing about being a teacher who likes using ICT is the seemingly never ending array of new applications you can try each year.

There are ample opportunities to try new things.

My favourite IT products I used 2015 were:

  1. Kahoot

There is nothing new under the sun. Kahoot is really just a quiz program. It does multiple choice and true and false questions but it does them in an amazingly engaging fashion. It is so rare that a program is engaging enough for students to request a practice quiz. “Can we do a Kahoot?” The beauty of Kahoot is it is so easy to use and set up. With little investment of your time you are up and running. Create a free account, search for the topic, use someone’s quiz, get students too log in. They don’t require user names or passwords. Kahoot has the gamification aspects that work perfectly embedded; Leaderboards, Instant Feedback, Competition, Interaction and Challenge. Students can play on their computer or on their phones.

I looked into a digital clicker system a few years ago that would have cost thousands of dollars. Kahoot does it for free.

If you are not using Kahoot with your classes they are missing out.

Kahoot.jpg

My tips for Kahoot:

  • You need the music on.
  • Get students to use their real names. Do this by “kicking them out” of the login screen when they put in silly names. The reason for this is for your formative assessment. You need to know who does and does not understand a concept.
  • Offer a small prize for the winner. Our school has ARCC awards which are positive behaviour notifications. I give n ARCC award to the top 3 on the leaderboard at the end of the quiz. This keeps the students motivated.
  • Between 10 and 15 questions is plenty.
  1. Quizlet

Once again an old idea with a new front end. Quizlet, at its most basic level, does flashcards of vocabulary. Word on one side of the card, definition on the other. I used to tell my Year 12 Chem students to make flashcards in 1989 when I first taught the subject.

Students can use these digital flashcards on both their computers and their phones. Where quizlet is great though is that once your vocab list is in place students can test themselves with spelling quizzes, multiple choice quizzes and games. Once again it is free and is so easy to use.

quizlet-banner.jpg

My tips for Quizlet:

  • Keep your word list fairly small. Better to have two wordlists with 10 words in each rather than one with 20.
  • The paid account really does not give you much more than the free account.
  • Encourage students to install the Quizlet app on their phones. It is a great app. Ask them to do a word list game on the bus or the train each night. Spaced practice made convenient.
  1. Shared Google Docs for group work

I made extensive use of shared google docs in group work. My science classes had to write up prac reports in groups of 3. One prac report between 3 students. This made collaboration essential and Google Docs makes collaboration easy. Three students would all working on the same report at the same time. Students would often divide up the report. “You do the Aim and Method, I’ll do the Results section, and you do the Questions and the Conclusion.” They would then, with some suggesting (read insisting) from me, check each other’s work to improve the quality. The quality of reports was significantly better than when students worked individually. I had 24 students in the class so I only needed to give feedback on 8 reports. This reduced my workload too.  I would use the comments and edit function of google docs to give feedback on a draft for each group. I could see from the Editing History of the google doc which students had done what and who actually responded to my feedback. Google docs solve many of the issues associated with group work. How often in the past have we had the situation where a group of students would be stopped in their tracks when on Monday a group member was absent? “Billy’s got our results and he’s away” or “Our report is on Billy’s computer.” This is not a problem when students are using Google Docs. We even had the situation where Billy was at home sick but was still able to contribute to the write up from there.

Google-Docs-Online-Training-Made-Easy1.jpg

My Tips for Google Docs:

  • When giving students feedback click on the Editing Button and change it to “Suggesting”. This means students are easily able to see your suggestions.
  • Use the Comment Function to give feedback as well.
  • Ask students to submit a link rather than submit a file. This means your server and computer don’t fill up with large files.
  • Use the Revision History to see what and when students contributed to the group report.

 

I’ve already picked out three programs to try in 2016. I’ll tell you about them next week.

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